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Teachers Union’s demand for salary increase from 2019-2023 not in interest of educators’ wellbeing – Attorney General

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Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall SC, has expressed concerns about the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and its recent demand for a salary increase before ending the ongoing strike.

Nandlall believes that this demand reflects a lack of interest in conciliation and resolving issues beforehand, enphasising the need for both parties to engage in good faith and adhere to the principles of conciliation.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs,. Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, MP

The Teachers Union is insisting on a 20 per cent interim across-the-board payment for teachers before ending their strike and entering into conciliation talks with the Ministry of Education, leading to an impasse on talks between both parties.

“In order for the conciliation to even start, you have to go back to work,” Minister Nandlall highlighted on Wednesday as he appeared on an interview with the National Communications Network (NCN).

He continued, “But the Union has now imposed upon the conciliation, a regime of demands, which they are saying, must be addressed, before the conciliation even begins. Now, that is in bad faith [and] that is contrary to the principles of conciliation, and may very well be unlawful.”

Minister Nandlall also pointed out that the government cannot grant an increase for the period of 2019-2023 due to various valid reasons, including the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on economies worldwide.

He highlighted that while many countries were cutting the salaries of its workers, the Guyanese Government continued to pay teachers even when they were not physically present at work.

In fact, they also received consistent salary increases and even benefitted from several interventions and programmes outlined in the government’s fiscal plans for each year.

The Attorney General expressed his belief that the union’s demands for an impossible increase reveal ulterior motives and a lack of seriousness about conciliation, which seeks to create unrest in the education sector

“The mask I think fell off, from the face of the union, when, it went to the table, during this conciliation, and superimposed a series of demands, even before the conciliation starts. And in terms of salary… the mask has come off. This union has illustrated, even to those who were in support of it, that they are not serious about conciliation. They are not serious about resolving, any impasse. This industrial action is not a bona fide, one. It is, influenced, by, other considerations,” he opined.

Additionally, Minister Nandlall raised concerns about the affordability and sustainability of the requested increases, particularly the lack of provisions for retroactive salaries for educators.

He also argued against singling out teachers for salary increases, emphasising the need for fair treatment of all public sector employees as mandated by the Constitution of Guyana.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand has regarded the request as unacceptable and unreasonable, which she believes is set out to derail the process.

Teachers in Guyana initiated a second wave of strike actions on May 9, prompting discussions that commenced on May 13 and persisted through May 14. Despite the government’s willingness to discuss teacher salary increases from 2024 onward, the GTU insists on retroactive increases from 2019-2023. The government will also be appealing High Court Judge Sandil Kissoon’s ruling that the teachers’ salaries should not be deducted following their participation in a five-week strike even as the written judgment is yet to be disseminated.

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